|The beautiful Dragon Fruit|
|Caroyne's Colorful New Friend|
|The Dragon Fruit with Red Flesh Tastes Better than the White|
We turned at high speed from the narrow alley into a lane. Women cooked beside the street on either side of us, crouched down stirring delicious recipes that filled the air with tummy-rumbling smells. Men chatted together, smoking long wooden meter-long pipes that gurgled gently as they sucked nicotine into their lungs. A woman on a bicycle selling flowers took off her conical hat and wiped her deeply-lined cheeks with a cloth, staring into my foreign face with her brows furrowed. We darted up a narrow drive and stopped. I paid the driver 22,000 Vietnamese dong for my thrill ride - exactly $1US.
|Selling tea cups, plates and tupperware|
|A plastic passenger|
|Hoan Kiem Lake at night|
In a dark alley.
At a stranger's house.
Interviewing to teach English.
Our whole purpose of spending three months in Hanoi was so I could explore the teaching possibilities. We'd heard teaching English was BIG in Vietnam. And what we discovered was...
But when we arrived...
I had no leads.
I had no friends.
I had little clue. Okay, I had virtually NO clue.
|Fan dancers in the park|
Before we left our sailboat, Hotspur, in Fiji and leapt into Asia, we'd read several blog sites from travelers who had done what we were considering doing. I say "we", but Jim wasn't (and still isn't) considering teaching. And Carolyne is a wee bit young yet... (however we're thinking of seriously sending her through a CELTA course for certification. Seriously.) But, I came to Hanoi prepared for job hunting. I'd read up on what employers wanted. And I fit the bill... except for the 20-40 age guideline, which I'd hoped no one would notice.
My credentials were in order, referred to in Vietnam as a "Curriculum Vitae" or "CV" for short. They include:
A cover letter
A resume geared toward teaching
A scanned copy of my University transcript
My TEFL online certificate completed August 2016 (Four weeks before arriving in Hanoi, I signed up for an online ESL teaching certificate to boost my chances of getting hired. I signed up with Uni Prep,a 120-hour course for $250... which I finished in less than 48 hours. Some of the more serious international schools don't accept this type of credential.)
In addition, I included a photo of me teaching students in American Samoa, a letter of recommendation from a previous school where I taught and a one page scanned copy of a magazine article I had published in March... to show off my writing and grammar skills.
First, if you are from a country where "discrimination" is a dirty word, then coming to Vietnam might shake you up. Get ready - there is nothing wrong with an employer asking your age and if you get upset about that, you lessen your chances of getting hired. In fact, your CV should include a headshot (or professional-ish photo of your face) and probably should include your age (though I left my age off and hoped my Porcelana skin would radiate "forever youth" through my photo). That's another thing about discrimination in Vietnam - lighter skin is revered. Is that wrong? It just is what it is. Maybe a woman is preferred over a man and the ad might say so. Maybe Russian English is secondary to New Zealand, Canadian or American English. Maybe "beauty" is preferred to superb teaching skills. Here, no one hides under a pretense of "fair hiring practices". Fairness doesn't exist.
|Before dinner with our friends, Joe and Marilyn, as Jim|
goes for the fluffy-hair-in-the-fan look
Then, there was a problem of dodging the "scammers". It wasn't that there weren't any leads... there were tons. But who is honest and wonderful to work for? And who's a liar and thief? So, before hitting the pavement I joined several Facebook groups talking about teaching and hiring teachers and about Hanoi in general. You get a great feel for credible employers.... and ones you might want to avoid:
Hanoi Massive Jobs
Hanoi English Teaching Jobs
English Teachers in Hanoi
School and Center Rating
and I'm still awaiting a response from a group I'm interested in joining because I can't wait to read about skanks and their devious ploys to entrap unsuspecting teaching hopefuls:
Hanoi English Teacher Bad Experiences Exchange.
|Carolyne strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, |
close to where we're living
It was through one of these Facebook groups I met Daren, a rockin' good teacher from New York City who needed to go home for a couple months and wanted to recruit a substitute teacher to cover his block of classes until he returned. He wanted to make a decision quickly, so I agreed to meet him at a cafe to discuss the details only four days after we arrived in Hanoi (and I'd had time to recoup from a nasty respiratory and gut flu). I ordered a coffee and waited. I was pleasantly surprised when a tall, handsome black man with long dreds gently salted with smidgens of gray walked through the door. We introduced ourselves and he sat down, removing his folding reading glasses from his pocket as he ticked off his teaching schedule. In the end, I was the perfect fit. I agreed to commit to his schedule and hold it sacred until his return in October.
|Pokemon Go just started in Vietnam this week|
|Transport isn't always motorized - or safe|
|$1 Beer Corner attracts more locals than tourists|
But sadly, my block of classes didn't quite work out as I expected. Before Daren left Vietnam, over half his classes I'd been promised were gifted to someone else by the director at the school to some whiny baby who threatened to quit without notice if he didn't inherit more hours. Daren is way cooler than Whiny Baby and will get his classes back upon his return in October, I'm sure of it. But for me - since Whiny Baby didn't take all Daren's classes (which would have been preferable)- I found myself juggling a jigsaw puzzle of higgledy-piggledy open and closed slots... which is how I found myself at an interview.
In a dark alley.
At a stranger's house.
Thank you, Whiny Baby.
Really. I mean it.
Part II To Come...